Thrive. Connect. Contribute.

By Tony Loyd

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We tell positive stories of people who, thrive in life, connect with others, and contribute to the world in the face of adversity.

We ask and answer this one question:

"Tell me about a time when you were resilient."

Why "Thrive. Connect. Contribute."? You are here on earth to connect with others and contribute to the world. But before you can connect and contribute, you must first practice self-care. In other words, you must thrive. Thrive. Connect. Contribute. In that order. 

Episode Date
Kindness, Courage, Grit, and Rites of Passage, with John Beede

What can we learn about masculinity from an adventurer?

John Beede a worldwide adventurer who has traveled to 67 countries, written 3 books, and given live presentations to nearly 1 million audience members.

He has climbed to the top of the tallest mountain on every continent, including Mount Everest. He has kite surfed in every ocean on the planet. In the last nine years, he survived avalanches, pulmonary edema, tribal warfare, and a whole lot of Clif bars.

But his biggest challenge was when he sat down quietly on a sofa and told someone about his pain.

John’s newest book is The Warrior Challenge: 8 Quests for Boys to Grow Up with Kindness, Courage, and Grit. In this important book, John talks about how to raise young men in challenging times. Traits we've always considered masculine--like being tough and not showing emotion--are no longer what we want for our boys. Especially when society most needs unity, empathy, and the understanding that all humans are created equal.

Learn more about John Beede:

Book: The Warrior Challenge: 8 Quests for Boys to Grow Up with Kindness, Courage, and Grit,

John Beede:

John Beede on Instagram:

John Beede on Twitter:

John Beede on LinkedIn:

Dec 02, 2020
When Life Disappoints, Rediscover Your Play, with Jeff Harry

What if your biggest setback can unlock a magical journey?

Jeff Harry uses a combination of positive psychology and play to unlock possibilities.

I asked Jeff to tell me about a time when he was resilient. His answer is epic.

“My best friend Dana and I are locking up the café,” Jeff Harry tells me. “We had put our heart and soul into it for the past year and a half. All my savings, and even money I didn't have - six figures to be exact - was invested in that cafe. Everyone tried to warn me, but I didn't listen. This is the last time we would be standing here, as we were closing the cafe down. We walked away with such shame.

“I felt like such a failure, a loser, naive, and stupid. I believed I would be in debt for the rest of my life, paying for this bad decision. What was I even thinking? Would I ever be able to bounce back? My inner critic beat up every day for the next year as I paid off debts and tried to scrounge up whatever money I could to free myself of this poor choice.

“A funny thing happened though. I was astonished that I was still alive. That even with this big failure, I hadn't had a nervous breakdown. I hadn't lost my job that actually paid me and for some reason because I hadn't died.

“I felt bold enough to fail again. Even if I fell flat on my face once again, it couldn't be as bad as this last failure. So, I decided to create a separate Corporate Special Events Wing for the LEGO-Inspired STEM Organization that I helped build.

“I started reaching out to the top Silicon Valley companies and pitching them to do special events that I didn't even know if I could pull off. I started doing crazy things because I was compelled to do it. For example, once I was watching a Marvel Movie, saw the VP of Creative Services, and went home and reached out to her on LinkedIn to see if we could collaborate on an event and she actually got back to me. Why not just ask every organization I ever dreamed of working with and just see who would say yes?

“That bold attitude and willingness to take risks culminated in us doing massive events and conferences for Amazon, LEGO, Google, Salesforce, and countless other Fortune 500 companies. We even broke a few World Records.

“I had no idea what I was doing, but I didn't care. Because I felt I could do anything after failing so miserably and surviving that failure. It really is true that you learn the most from failure and the more you are willing to fail, the more likely you will succeed. For example, James Dyson created 5126 failed prototypes before inventing the first bagless vacuum cleaner.”

Jeff’s persistence in the face of adversity paid off. Today, Jeff shows individuals and companies how to tap into their true selves and to feel their happiest and most fulfilled. He does that by playing. Jeff has worked with Google, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, the NFL, Amazon, and Facebook, helping their staff to infuse more play into the day-to-day.

Jeff is an international speaker who has presented at conferences such as INBOUND, SXSW, and Australia’s Pausefest, showing audiences how major issues in the workplace can be solved using play.

Learn more about Jeff Harry:

Rediscover Your Play:






New York Times Article on Jeff Harry: How Do We Add More Play To Our Grown-Up Life - Even Now:

Nov 26, 2020
Success is an Inside Game, with Laura DiBenedetto

What do the happiest among us have in common?

Laura DiBenedetto’s story begins with bullying, abuse, bankruptcy, and burn out. More than anything, she wanted to be in control of her own destiny. So, at the age of 19, she launched the award-winning marketing company, Vision Advertising. Laura created, built, and ran the growth-oriented enterprise. She personally sold several million dollars in ongoing contracts. She was featured on Fox News and other Boston programming several times. She was recognized for business accomplishments and was named a 40 Under 40 winner at only age 23.

At the age of 37, Laura retired with a 6-figure passive income. She had all the outward appearance of having won at life. However, she was simply burnt out and unhappy. After years of self-improvement classes, workshops, books, and more, Laura was confused. She wondered why the personal development world had let her down. She sought to solve the problem.

Laura went on a radical journey of self-discovery, research, and testing, determined to find energy and lasting, fulfilling happiness in all areas of life. She found the answers – six of them, in fact.

Today, Laura is devoted to sharing the truths she discovered, so that others may find their own path out of misery and into lasting happiness. She shares what she has learned in her book, The Six Habits: Practical Tools for Bringing Your Dreams to Life.

Laura is a TEDx Speaker and bestselling author. She teaches how to create the life of our dreams without sacrificing what we love. As Founder and CEO of Vision Advertising, a company that she built aged 19, she has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs build and grow profitable enterprises entirely on their terms.

Learn more about Laura DiBenedetto:

Book: The Six Habits:

Laura DiBenedetto:

Laura DiBenedetto’s TEDx Talk:




Nov 24, 2020
See the Possibilities in the Pandemic, with Claire Downey, Class Of 2020

What opportunities are now available to you because of the pandemic?

There is a Jedi mind trick that can help you to be resilient. When you are up against an obstacle, ask yourself, “What does this make possible?” By learning to focus on the possibilities, you can build your hope muscle.

That’s precisely what Claire Downey has learned to do.

Claire had a dream job that allowed her to travel worldwide and meet all the sports superstars. “I fell into a career in broadcasting,” Claire explains. “At university, I studied Sport and Exercise Science. Knowing I wanted to work in sport and not a lot else, I applied for a sports media graduate scheme. Somehow, I got the job despite my blue hair. My career has blossomed since, and I have been lucky to work at major events worldwide.”

Then she was stricken by a rare disease. “It’s not been easy, though. While working at a tennis tournament, I developed a rare autoimmune disease that knocked me for six months. It’s called Miller Fisher. I’m told it affects 1-2 people per million in their entire lifetime.

“Your immune system attacks your nerves. It leaves you with no reactions and, in my case, affecting my sight. Some people stay like this permanently, but I was one of the lucky ones that got better.

Then COVID-19 appeared, and Claire couldn’t work. “When lockdown happened in London, I had time to re-evaluate. I didn’t feel like I was contributing properly to society. My illness had also changed my outlook on life. When I heard about the Class of 2020 project, I couldn’t wait to get involved. Class of 2020 is a free e-learning community platform to boost confidence, teach new skills, and improve employability. Somehow, I ended up as part of the management team. The project is extraordinary.

“We have a group of volunteers who have never met each other, working together to build something remarkable. We created a free online learning platform where 18 to 25-year-olds can access learning materials donated by major companies.

“The Class of 2020 offering has a real community vibe. It helps build confidence, improve skills, and increase employability. The project is right at its infancy, and we have had many ups and quite a few downs. As we launch, it’s remarkable to see how much progress has been made, but I can also see we have a long road ahead of us.

A Lesson Learned

“Working on the Class of 2020 is sometimes very scary. I’ve been involved in things I would never have dreamed of, and it’s easy to feel out of your depth (imposter syndrome). It would be easy to give up, but that doesn’t help anyone. Sometimes you must take a deep breath and take the plunge.”

A Call to Action

“Take some time to assess what interests you. See the possibilities in COVID-19.

“Many of us are working from home. It offers more time to do the things we believe in - be it a hobby, mentoring, volunteering, learning a language, or setting up a new skill. Also, please get in touch if you want to get involved in Class of 2020. We are always looking for content to put on the platform. We’re looking for written or recorded content. And, if you think you could do with learning a new skill, please check out the website.”

Learn more about Claire Downey and Class Of 2020:

Class Of 2020 Website:




Company LinkedIn:

Claire Downey on LinkedIn:

Oct 10, 2020
Make Good Choices and Persevere, with Jennifer R. Farmer

Jennifer R. Farmer tells us how Black women thrive in work and life.  

We’ve been talking about resilience. Who better to talk to than Jennifer? She has a book available for preorder, First and Only: A Black Woman's Guide to Thriving at Work and in Life.  

Jennifer grew up in subsidized housing in Columbus, Ohio. “It was not uncommon for me to lay on the ground to escape the sound of bullets,” she explains. “When you grow up in poverty and you grow up in constant fear that you will survive, it's very difficult to see what your life could look like 10, 15, or 20 years down the line.  

“And so if you were talking to that 11 or 12 year old girl who was very aware of the fact that she was poor, very aware of the fact that she was smart, but still didn't have all the opportunities that she may have seen others, she could not have imagined who she would become. 

“College was not in my long-term plans. It was an attempt to escape the life I knew. Going to college was one of the best decisions I ever made. I gained more than knowledge. College gave me confidence. It gave me a new way to see the world and the belief that I was just as good as the next person.  


“I have tried to do two things throughout my career: make good choices and persevere no matter what,” Jennifer says. “What distinguishes me from others is that I do not give up. I will always improve. I think critically about what it means to thrive, even in atmospheres not set up for my success.   

“My father was very independent. He was very determined. I got that from him.  

“My mother instilled in me that I don't ever give up. If you make a mistake., you can feel bad. Get up the next day and try again. I've learned that if I make a mistake, if I do something wrong, if I fail, it stings. But it stings a little bit less if there's a lesson that I can glean from it. If there's a strategy that I can put in place that will help me help me advance.  

“I think what's unique about me is, my commitment is to keep trying. I may be down for season, but my commitment is to start again, even in the face of perceived failure; even in the face of personal disappointment; even when it seems like I have no clue what I'm going to do. That willingness to start again is really what enables all of us to succeed.”  

Good Choices 

“Life reflects the choice that we have made,” Jennifer says. “I always think about ‘OK, how did I get here?’ What choice did I make?  

“And where do I want to be tomorrow. If I know where I want to be tomorrow, what choices do I have to make today to make that happen? When you think about your life, you can pinpoint different choices that set you up.  

“For example, my decision to go to college. That set me up to think differently about the world. My decision to surround myself with people who are different from me gives me an opportunity to see the world from a broader perspective. My decision to leave my full-time job and to start my own company is setting me up to have a level of agency that I've always that I've always desired. It gives me a level of freedom that's important to me as a parent.”  

Learn more about Jennifer R. Farmer:  

Oct 01, 2020
Build Your Network Before You Need It, with Maxwell Ivey, The Blind Blogger

Our connections are a source of resilience.  

Picture it. You are in a strange city, far away from home. You are suddenly struck ill. Now, imagine, if you also ran out of money and you weren’t sure how you were going to get home. Your voice is so hoarse, when you speak, no one can understand you. Oh, and to complicate things, you are blind.  

That’s the situation that speaker, author, and blogger Maxwell Ivey found himself in a few years ago. “I was sick, hoarse, broke, and about to be homeless in New York City,” Max explains. “I had given a talk. I got through it with a combination of hot tea with honey, winter green life savers, and the showman's will to always go on. I even sang at the end of my talk although my voice cratered.”  

Max went from coffee shop to coffee shop, drinking coffee and working the internet. “I couldn't call people because they couldn't understand me. Finally, one friend from California sent me money for a hotel. It was within walking distance of the diner. Another friend purchased a train ticket for me back home to Houston, Texas.  

“Friends from church picked me up at the station. I was so sick” he remembers, “they made me put on gloves and mask. That was long before this pandemic.  

“I was sick for several weeks. Dehydration caused me to be dizzy and have trouble talking. It was a month before I could speak normally and two months before I could sing again. Eventually I did overcome the catastrophe and put myself out there again. This time, I remained closer to home. 

Building His Network  

Maxwell Ivey is a totally blind man who grew up in a family of carnival owners. From an early age, he knew that he would eventually lose his vision.  

Family, teachers, and other mentors taught him to be positive and see the possibilities. He graduated from a traditional high school and college. He achieved the rank of eagle scout.  

After college, Max participated in the family carnival business until his dad's death.  

He then started a business to help others sell their surplus carnival rides.  

Max had to learn how to hand code html. He also had to recruit clients, set fees, write copy, manage media, use social media, build an email list, record videos, and more.  

Max started blogging to share what he learned. People were inspired by his journey, and he began to gather a following. That lead to a second website as The Blind Blogger. He also published four self-help books. He started traveling the country to speak. That is how he found himself in New York City with no way to get home. His network came to his rescue.  

Lesson Learned:  

Max advises listeners, “Start building your community now. Start by adding one supportive, encouraging, uplifting person and grow from there. Use social media to make real connections online. In times of crisis, it's the people you have come to know and trust who will help you the most.” 

A Call to Action:  

“Reach out to one person you like admire or trust and ask them to become part of your journey. It could even be me. I love inspiring others.” 

Learn more about Maxwell Ivey, The Blind Blogger:  

Sep 30, 2020
Resilience in the Face of Bipolar Disorder, with Catharine Clarenbach

Catharine Clarenbach heard voices in her head. Now she helps others to follow their hearts.

Rev. Catharine B. Clarenbach is both a Unitarian Universalist minister and a Wiccan priestess. She spent most of the first thirty years of her life in the grip of mental illness. Almost every day, she heard voices telling her that suicide was the only way out of her pain. At age 31, she was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and her life changed dramatically. Now, over fifteen years later, she is a thriving entrepreneur. She helps people find their best selves, listen to their intuition, and bring more love into the world.

“I spent most of the first thirty years of my life in the grip of bipolar disorder,” Catharine explains. “That is type 1, the kind that comes with mania and hearing voices. Nearly every hour, the voices told me I should kill myself. I was also very bullied as a child, am a survivor of multiple sexual assaults, and am the adult child of an alcoholic.” Catharine loved and admired his father. “I think he was probably self-medicating his own bipolar by using alcohol.”

At the age of 31, she discovered that she could have had bipolar disorder. “I was able to find help, thanks to the assistance of a dear friend. I realized that bipolar disorder had been treated in millions of people. Maybe I could help too. And I did. I got the help that changed my life.

“I could make plans. I could follow through. I could finish my bachelor’s degree. And eventually, I went to divinity school and became an ordained minister.

Now for years, she’s been helping other people around the world through classes and web conferencing. “I’m not the kind of minister who has a bricks-and-mortar congregation. Through my work at The Way of the River, I help people --especially people alienated from traditional religion. This often includes people with their mental health struggles or fellow Rainbow Family members, the LGBTQ communities. I help people find their way back to spirituality and their place as a perfectly imperfect image of the Creator. Every day, I get to bring the fruits of my struggle to bears as I listen and support people from all over the world. I couldn’t be happier.”

Lessons Learned from Her Struggles

“I am no different from a homeless person talking with themselves on the street. When I see those people talking out loud to no one we can see, I know who they’re talking to. I am just like them -- I happen to have the privilege of support of family, friends, and a team of helpers who keep me going on the path of mental health.

“There are people who want to help you, who want to find you and help pull you out of your stuck places. We are all in this together, with every other living thing, and with every other suffering human being.”

A Call to Action

Catharine urges people to share their stories with others. “Dare to reach out and be vulnerable with someone. Dare to share your difficulties. I guarantee that someone somewhere desperately needs to hear your story.”

Learn more about Catharine Clarenbach and The Way of the River:

●       The Way of the River

●       Facebook:

Sep 30, 2020
What Gives You the Right to Play Small? With Trav Bell, The Bucket List Guy

For extended show notes, see

How Trav Bell became The Bucket List Guy.  

In my wallet, is a neatly folded piece of paper. It comes from a daily calendar on November 30, 1995. The paper says, “Make a list of 25 things you want to experience before you die. Carry it in your wallet and refer to it often.”  

On the back of the paper is my first bucket list. Today, I keep a bucket list on Google Docs. Every time I cross something off the list, I add something else.  

When it comes to bucket lists, Trav Bell has me beat, hands down.  

Trav Bell is The Bucket List Guy. He speaks to audiences around the world, including his incredible TEDx Melbourne talk.  

But he wasn’t born with a bucket list. It developed over time.  

“I've never worked for anyone in my life,” Trav explains. “I've always been an entrepreneur.  

“That's probably because my dad was a fitter and turner, a mechanic. He worked for the same people from the age of 16 to the age of retirement. He liked it, but he wasn't really engaged the whole time. It brought him a fair bit of unhappiness.  

“That's probably why I went to entrepreneurialism, and why I chose my own path.”  

Trav was always good at sports. He grew up as a surfer, swimmer, lifesaver (or lifeguard). When he went to university, he studied physical education. In his third year of college, he started training others as a personal trainer.  

“This is when personal training wasn’t a thing. There were only a handful of personal trainers running around Australia. I was in Melbourne, so I started this personal training thing.”  

Trav eventually grew his personal training business from a single customer to a franchise business that served tens of thousands of clients. “I did that business for 20 years,” Trav remembers. “But there were some things that happened in my life that spiraled out of control, that got on top of me. I went through a bout of depression. I had a breakdown before my breakthrough moment.  

After twenty years of work to build a thriving business, the business began to take its toll. Trav decided to sell his business and to pursue a different path.  

“I found myself in personal development course, getting coaches, reading up on positive psychology, neurolinguistic programming, all this good stuff. If you put a course in front of me at that point, I would have done it and invested heavily.” 

Eventually three coincidences came together to put Trav on the path to being The Bucket List Guy.  

Learn More about Trav Bell:  

Trav Bell, The Bucket List Guy:  

Become a Bucket List Coach:  

The Bucket List Guy on Facebook:  

The Bucket List Guy on Twitter:  

The Bucket List Guy on Instagram:  

The Bucket List Guy on YouTube:  

Trav Bell on LinkedIn:  

BookHappier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment  

Sep 07, 2020
How to Leave a Sexy Job, with Mandar Apte, Cities4Peace

Mandar Apte felt called to create peace. But first, he had to give up his dream job.

In early 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King took a five-week tour of India to see the results of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent movement.

While in India, Dr. King said, “I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.”

A Sexy Job

In 2016, the story of King’s trip to India caught the attention of Mandar Apte. “I was a senior executive at Shell with a sexy job, ‘Manager of GameChanger Social Innovation,’” Mandar explains. “I managed a multi-million-dollar investment fund on innovations. The fund created shared value - both social impact and business returns.”

His work was recognized globally. He has spoken at TEDx, Wharton Business School, Social Innovation Summit, London Business School, and more. His work was recognized in publications such as FastCompany. He was the winner of the prestigious Ashoka League of Intrapreneurs.

But then, Mandar read the story of Dr. King’s trip to India.

“I was on a month-long holiday in India when I read Dr. King’s biography,” Mandar says. He read about Dr. King’s trip to India and was immediately struck. “The calling was, America needs another reminder of nonviolence.”

Mandar called several friends, including his friend Sarah. When he told Sarah about what he was learning, she challenged him, “Why don’t you lead a delegation to India?”

Mandar found and spoke to thirty-five victims of violence in America. Of the thirty-five, six people joined him in India. He hosted parents from the Sandy Hook Elementary School, former gang members, and leaders in the Black Lives movement.

“I used that month to produce a documentary film about victims of violence from America, walking in the footsteps of MLK’s journey.” The film is From India, With Love.

After his month vacation, Mandar went back to his sexy job. But the problem of peace would not leave him alone.

“I could not go back to work,” Mandar says. He quotes Dr. King’s words, “Today we don’t have a choice between and violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”

Mandar is both a peace activist and an innovator. “I am an engineer. I look at the problem and work toward a solution. The problem I had taken on was how to reduce violence of all kinds. How can we promote peace and compassion?

“So, I quit my job.”

From Filmmaker to Peace Activist

After leaving his job, Mandar began to screen the film across the United States. “I went to the south side of Chicago. I went to inner-city schools, prisons, and juvenile halls.

One screening was on the campus of George Mason University. The Dean for the School of Conflict Resolution had been to India. In a conversation, Mandar proposed creating an innovation lab that would look at the business case for peace.

“For cities like Los Angeles, every homicide costs the taxpayers between one and ten million dollars,” Mandar explains.  

In 2019, Mandar started Cities4Peace, a peace consultancy that works with civic leaders to promote peace in cities. The flagship project of this initiative launched in Los Angeles. Mandar worked with the Los Angeles Police Dept (LAPD) and the LA Mayor’s Office for Gang Reduction & Youth Development (GRYD).

“Everybody can get involved,” he says. “You don’t have to go to South Sudan or Iraq. There is violence in our communities.”

Learn More about Mandar Apte:

From India, With Love:

Cities4Peace Website:

For Corporate Innovators:

Mandar Apte on Facebook:

Mandar Apte on Twitter:

Aug 15, 2020
Healing through Community, with Iram Gilani, Author of Silent No More

For extended show notes, see

After Iram Gilani nearly lost her life to gun violence, she found hope by building a community. Now she dedicates her life to helping others. 

Iram Gilani is a Pakistani-American author. She faced abandonment, neglect, isolation, molestation, physical and emotional abuse, forced marriage, bullying, homelessness, and a violent gun assault that shattered her jaw. She has risen from the depths of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to be a voice for the abused and marginalized. 

Learn More about Iram Gilani:

Iram Gilani Website:

Iram Gilani on Facebook:

Iram Gilani on Instagram:

Iram Gilani on Twitter:

Aug 14, 2020
Learning to Thrive, with Susan Hay, Thrive Health Magazine

Susan Hay hit rock bottom. Then she launched a global health and nutrition brand.

Susan Hay is the Founder and CEO of Thrive Health Magazine, a health and nutrition magazine. She also runs Thrive Media, a digital branding agency for Health, Food, and Fitness Brands.

After a 20-year career in branding and design, the lifestyle began to take its toll. “I began to find that my health was deteriorating,” Susan explains, “because of the stressful lifestyle and eating rubbish food. If I’m honest with myself, I knew I wasn’t thriving for several years. I wasn’t happy. I was stressed, and I was working no end of hours.

“That’s when I hit rock bottom. And for me, the transformation was about how food can make you feel better.”

She began to examine her life, starting with the food she was eating and the people with whom she was sharing time. She trained as a Holistic Nutritionist.

In 2014, Susan released the first issue of Thrive Health Magazine. The goal is to clear up confusion about health and nutrition by publishing expert articles.

“There’s a lot of confusing information out there. It’s hard for people to focus and get on the right path. That’s why the magazine started and still thrives today.”

Despite her apparent expertise in managing brands, Susan knew nothing about magazine publishing. “It was such a passion project,” Susan confesses, “It was such a passion project, it was almost as if it was out of my hands. It just came together in the form of a magazine because of my background.”

Today, Thrive Health Magazine enjoys subscribers in 25 countries.

Because of Susan’s background in branding, a lot of other health, nutrition, and wellness brands began to reach out. “I love working with startup brands that have a good core mission. Some bigger corporate brands will start a food brand, and because they have a marketing budget, they can push it out to the masses. Where, smaller brands that have a far better product, struggle with that.”

So, Susan launched Thrive Media to work with brands in food, health, and nutrition to help them build a brand and a business online.

One offering from Thrive Media is Thrive Brand Academy. “In 2020, I am focusing on helping brands in health, food, and wellness to learn about launching an ethical brand online,” Susan says. “I’m helping brands to grow their audience.”

To start, Susan suggests that those who are interested start with her Brand Clarity Quiz.

Learn More about Susan Hay and Thrive Media and Publishing:

Aug 12, 2020
Stories of Resilience, Part 4

Uncharted territory.

This is the final installment from a storytelling class by Dane Stauffer, featuring storytellers who are 55 years old or older.

Today’s storytellers are talking about their in uncharted territories. Whether they are trapped in an apartment, puttering in a garden, in an unfamiliar landscape with a parent, or on the open road, they are finding ways to be resilient.

Ann Davey, I’m Sheboygan

Bio: I'm expanding my horizons in my retirement with improv and storytelling. It keeps me busy and learning new things is always good for mental health.

Sandra Eliason, Harmony

Bio: I am a retired physician who has turned to writing full time. I enjoy getting together with people, which is on hold now in person. I enjoy reading. I am currently reading all the books I have collected meaning to read over the years and am making a dent. I’m currently trudging my way through "War and Peace." I enjoy walking and visiting with my kids and grandkids, currently socially distanced in backyard. I enjoy storytelling and writing. I am currently learning to allow myself to be lazy, to sit and read or write with no guilt. And I am trying hard to get my house in order to downsize.

Susan Temple, Dad, After Mom

Bio: I raised five daughters and taught kindergarten for many years. When my 30-year marriage ended suddenly five years ago, I began a journey of self-discovery that led to my becoming a Life Coach and Emotional Freedom Techniques Practitioner. Now I get to help others on their own journey to self-discovery. I love supporting folks as they find more peace and freedom in their lives.

Mary Britt Delaney, Biking, Summer 1974

Bio: I am an Irish woman, native of St Paul. I enjoy listening, learning, and sharing experiences. A favorite quote comes from a Navajo Indian Prayer: "As I walk, the universe is walking with me." I wonder what is next?

Learn More about Dane Stauffer and Aroha Philanthropies:

Jun 28, 2020
Stories of Resilience, Part 3

A shift in perspective.

Welcome back to part three of a four-part series on Stories of Resilience. One of the ways to build resilience is to reframe something, to see it in a new way.  

These stories come from a storytelling class taught by Dane Stauffer. The class is part of a Creative Aging initiative from Aroha Philanthropies. The class is targeted for those over 55 years old, with some participants in their 80s. The goal of the program is to upend the narrative on aging.

These stories are told via Zoom during the pandemic.

Today we hear stories about a shift in perspective. One story is about an eye infection that led to a new way of seeing things. Another is about a new way of seeing Passover. And one is about a cat who changed her mind.

The first story comes from Ruth Lauritzen. She finds a way to have grace for her much younger self.

Ruth Lauritzen, The Lesson

Bio: I am retired from a career in teaching and design. I most enjoy theater, music, reading, and the outdoors. I look forward to returning to live performances in the not too distant future (fingers crossed). My hubby and I miss our family and friends.

Nancy Winter, A Little Eye Problem

Bio: I am a 68-year-old, never married, no children retired mortgage banker. I’m a single-family homeowner planning to stay in my home as long as possible. I have lost both of my siblings and parents to diseases and am wanting to share stories of care giving with humor and compassion and the importance of taking care of yourself. Travel was a passion of mine having been to over 45 countries with unique stories. I have friends living in multiple states of all ages, interests, life experiences, opinions, goals and am always open to new friends. 

Laurie Kamman, The First-Ever Passover Zoom-Over

Bio: Laurie Kamman is a native Minnesotan. As a journalist she worked in public radio and television. Prior to the Pandemic she enjoyed traveling and learning about other cultures through food and art. She hopes to resume this passion in the not too distant future. She is a daily walker. She also loves to challenge herself by trying new things. At 64, she is continuing to develop her skills as a storyteller. She believes we get to know ourselves and each other through the stories we share. She divides her time between the Twin Cities and Charleston, South Carolina.

Nancy Gagliardi, Morgan’s Easter Story

Bio: I am a retired elementary school teacher, wife, stepmom, grandmother, Auntie, friend, and animal lover. I enjoy people and getting to know them through their stories. Navigating life the best I can and enjoying the ride. Grateful to have discovered this storytelling community.

Learn More about Dane Stauffer and Aroha Philanthropies:

Dane Stauffer:

Aroha Philanthropies:

Jun 27, 2020
Stories of Resilience, Part 2

Resilience doesn’t have to look a certain way.

Resilience can look a lot of ways. Today, we’re going to hear four different people give their response to the prompt, “Tell me about a time when you were resilient.”

These stories come from a storytelling class taught by Dane Stauffer. The class is part of a Creative Aging initiative from Aroha Philanthropies. The class is targeted for those over 55 years old, with some participants in their 80s. The goal of the program is to upend the narrative on aging.

These stories are told via Zoom during the pandemic. You can here Dane tell the backstory here.

For the next three episodes, we are going to present stories of resilience. What is surprising is the variety of these stories. It’s an important lesson.

Resilience doesn’t have to look a certain way.

Today, we present four stories of a gym class, clothes pins, September 11, and Pine-Sol.  

Michelle Westlund, Hang On

Bio: I'm originally from Ohio and am a huge Ohio sports fan. I work in marketing at Bethel University. I am also a grad student at Bethel Seminary. My biggest life accomplishment is my three adult kids, who are now my three best friends.

Bettiana Luisa LaSorella, The Curse

Bio: I live a life of wonderful adventure - - even though I hardly leave my kitchen. Children, books, stories, nature, and good friends have helped me through most of life's lonely, fearful, and hard journeys as well as the happy ones. I keep dancing in my living room, reading, riding my bike, camping, cooking, and being surprised. Gratitude eases my days and love eases my nights.

Kim Vasquez, A Year of Resilience...I Think.

Bio: Kim is the Founding Artistic Producer of Gray Lady Entertainment, Inc., a Producer on the Broadway musical sensation Be More Chill running in London (pre-COVID) and a newly appointed Artistic Associate at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul (2021). Having lived and worked in NYC and Massachusetts for nearly 30 years she is thrilled to be back in the Twin Cities performing Storytelling with Dane Stauffer.

Lesley Novick, The Power of Pine-Sol

Bio: Lesley was born, raised, and formally educated in and around Minneapolis. After graduation from the University of Minnesota, she left Minnesota for what turned out to be a 23-year career working for an international hospitality company that brought her back to Minneapolis. Looking for a change and a chance to be her own boss, she became a Realtor and has been helping people buy an-d sell homes for 23 far.

Learn More about Dane Stauffer and his storytelling class:

Jun 26, 2020
Stories of Resilience, Part 1, Dane Stauffer

Tell me about a time when you were resilient.


Special Note: This episode was recorded before the killing of George Floyd. Should this interview have happened later, Dane and I would have had a different conversation with a different tone. We present this interview in solidarity with all who are working to dismantle systemic racism.


Dane Staffer is a busy guy. He is an actor, writer, singer, director, improviser, educator, and sought-after party guest. In a word, he is a creative.

For the last three years, Dane has taught a storytelling class at the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN. The class is part of a Creative Aging initiative from Aroha Philanthropies. The class is targeted for those over 55 years old, with some participants in their 80s. The goal of the program is to upend the narrative on aging.

Unfortunately, during the winter, Park Square Theatre was unable to host the class. However, they gave Dane permission to continue the class elsewhere.

Dane went into improvisational mode. “I am so glad that I am steeped in improv,” Dane says. “Because two of the basic ideas of improv are ‘yes, and,’ and ‘adjust accordingly.’”

Dane found a room in his apartment complex, contacted interested students, and scheduled the first class for March 17, 2020.

With the class location settled and students enrolled, Dane traveled to the west coast. While there, news of the Coronavirus broke. Meetings began to cancel, and so Dane caught a class back home.

Minnesota went on lockdown, and the class was canceled. This was particularly bad news for Dane. He makes his livelihood from entertainment and education.

Again, Dane called on his improvisational skills. If the goal is to upend the narrative on aging, why not go all in and conduct the storytelling class via Zoom. “One of the stereotypes of this age group is that technology is not our thing,” Dane explains. “I pitched it as a beta test, because I believe in learning on the job.”

After a rocky start, the students became proficient in Zoom.

Typically, Dane’s storytelling class ends with a capstone presentation in a theater. Think of it as The Moth meets AARP. The stories can vary widely on topics.

In this case, given the COVID-19 pandemic and the rich life experience of the participants, Dane and the students decided to focus on a single prompt.

“Tell me about a time when you were resilient.”

The stories are as varied as the participants. The participants talked about the polio outbreak, about September 11, 2001, about World War II.

“I think it’s important that we show up authentically, even if it’s imperfect, rather than waiting until we get it all right,” Dane says. “So, my goal is to create an opening where we can generate stories.

“What we know from telling stories live is, the power of sharing your story ripples out into the community. My friend T. Mychael Rambo says ‘Every person is a library.’ And the only way someone is going to hear your story is when you share it.” 

Coming Up!

Dane has recorded twelve stories from his class. Over the next three episodes, we will share four short stories on the topic of resilience.

Learn More about Dane Stauffer:

Dane Stauffer:

Facebook Group, Improvise Now:

Aroha Philanthropies:

Jun 26, 2020
Thinking at the Systems Level, with Brian Krohn,

When faced with a systemic problem, Brian Krohn thinks at the systems level.

Systems resist change, whether we are talking about systemic racism, institutional policies, or a global pandemic. To meet systemic challenges, you must think at the systems level.

Brian Krohn has spent his career changing stubborn systems.

It’s 3 AM on March 10, 2020. Brian is frantically sketching on a giant whiteboard in his basement workshop. The COVID-19 pandemic has landed on the US coasts. Misinformation is everywhere, and no one seems to be doing anything. No one seems to understand the scale of what is coming. Brian has an idea that might help. But can an idea spread faster than a virus?

The idea was simple.

“The only effective tools we have to fight COVID-19 are testing, contact tracing, and social distancing, Brian says. “There were several problems. The US fumbled its testing program. Contact tracing requires an invasion of privacy that Americans won’t tolerate. Social distancing and quarantine can only be effectively implemented on a massive scale, such as a state shutdown.”

Brian’s idea? Build a way for users to share their symptoms anonymously at the neighborhood level.

“The neighborhood, or census block group, is big enough to maintain privacy. Yet, it’s small enough that individuals and communities can act.”

The goal was for people to see what was going on in their neighborhood. They would get clear personalized social distancing recommendations. This would allow them to contain COVID-19 without giving up civil liberties.

But for this idea to work, it would require:

1. Institutional backing from trusted institutions and people (hospitals and universities), and

2. Widespread adoption from users to participate.

How though could one guy in his basement at 3 AM muster that kind of support?

He started texting everyone he knew. Before dawn, he had connected with friends at the University of Minnesota. He found collaborators at the HealthPartners Institute, the research arm of HealthPartners. HealthPartners is the largest healthcare provider in Minnesota.

But then, they ran into a series of bureaucratic hurdles.

“Our collaborators at the University of Minnesota were great,” he explains, “but, because of the COVID-19 crisis, key decision-makers were swamped. HealthPartners stepped up and supported this innovative idea.”

With institutional approval, Brian and a small team built an app to trace the pandemic at the neighborhood level. They submitted it to the big tech companies. Nothing. They were blocked.

“First, they didn’t believe HealthPartners was a health organization. Then, they sat on it for ten days so that they could launch their COVID symptom recommender. We thought we were dead at that point. However, their system still didn’t help users and communities to take action, so we pushed forward.”

As of today, has launched a Web App. They have an iOS app. However, the Android app is still not available.

“We have growing grassroots support from doctors and neighbors. We are in this for the long haul. COVID-19 is not going away any time soon. The Spanish flu took two full years and three waves of deaths to conclude. We are going to need ways to come together and to look out for each other. Otherwise, the self-inflicted damage may be greater than the damage from the virus.” 

Learn More Brian Krohn and

Modern Logic:

HealthPartners Institute:

Brian Krohn on LinkedIn:

Jun 16, 2020
Connect to Contribute to the World with Stefan Phang

Stefan Phang is driven to make a difference. He creates shared value through connections.

For more than thirty years, Stefan Phang has been working to protect children and end human trafficking. “When a family is in deep poverty, sometimes, the only thing they can sell is themselves, or their children,” Stefan explains.

Stefan has first-hand knowledge of the world of the underserved. He grew up in a shanti in Penang, Malaysia. “There was no running water. The toilet was an outhouse with a blue pail in a hole in the ground. When the pail was full, it was my job to take the pail to the river and clean the pail. I grew up in that kind of squalor. I joined gangs to protect myself from being bullied.”

Stefan went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and a master’s degree in Molecular Epidemiology. He is an accredited Child Protection Advocate

Today, Stefan works to end poverty and child trafficking, but not by working for a charity or an NGO. He is the Global Director for Creating Shared Value (CSV), at Diversey. Diversey is a provider of cleaning, sanitation, and maintenance products, systems, and services.

Turning Waste into Shared Value

“In a megacity in Asia, you stand on the seventh floor of a hotel. You look across the road, and you see a slum. You don’t have to go far to find the poor.

“There is this disparity between the luxury of this hotel, and across the road, you’ve got squalor. So, I was looking for a way to bridge this gap. How do we get resources from those who can provide it, to those who need it?

“When I go to talk to someone, and I ask them for resources such as cash, they will give me a little bit of money. So, what you do is, you ask for something that they’ll never say no to. You ask them for things they are going to throw away. You ask them for your trash.”

Stefan mapped the waste streams of hotels. Every year, a typical 400-room hotel generates 3.5 tons of solid soap waste. That same hotel generates about two to three metric tons of used linens such as bedsheets, pillowcases, and more.

“If you map the waste that a luxury five-star hotel generates, a lot of it can be recycled or upcycled into something useful. People can make a small income out of it,” Stefan explains. “If someone has a way to make money, they don’t have to take the drastic step of selling their children.”

Working with luxury hotel chains and local NGOs, Stefan created two community resilience programs. Soap for Hope converts used guest soaps into new soap bars. Linens for Life converts condemned hotel linens into useful items such as school uniforms. These programs provide work and income for underserved communities.

Being a Connector During COVID-19

According to Stefan, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, all communities are under lockdown. But not all lockdowns are created equal. The poor, underprivileged, and underserved suffer the most. These communities need sanitation and protection from the virus.

“These programs are designed to be community-based. But, how to do this now under lockdown? Also, how do we distribute these items to communities in need under lockdown conditions?”

Stefan and the teams did not give up. They converted the Linens for Life program to make facemasks. “We have distributed 150,000 soaps and 50,000 face masks. We deliver to slums and rubbish dumps. We are working globally, from Argentina to India to Indonesia. “

Stefan explains the drive that keeps him going. “There is a cliché that says that there are 3 types of people in the world. Those who make things happen. Those who watch things happen. And those who wondered what the hell happened.

“The needs out there are simply too great for me to say ‘well, there's nothing I can do from here’. I have Wifi. I have email. I have social media.

“You have choices. You can choose to be a person who make things happen. You can watch things happen. Or, you can wonder what the hell happened. For me, I made the choice to make things happen. 

Jun 12, 2020
Resilience Through Community, with Michelle Maryns of We Sparkle

Michelle Maryns is building a stronger and more inclusive economy by equipping underestimated entrepreneurs with tech-enabled business tools.


Special Note: This episode was recorded before the killing of George Floyd. Should this interview have happened later, Michelle and I would have had a different conversation with a different tone. We present this interview in solidarity with all who are working to dismantle systemic racism.

From an early age, Michelle Maryns was interested in the economic empowerment of women of color. “My mom was the first entrepreneur I ever knew,” she says. “She had a successful fabric business back in Vietnam, but when my parents immigrated to Kansas in 1975 as part of the first wave of refugees, she didn't feel confident in continuing her business because of all the language, cultural, and systemic barriers. I always wondered what she could have accomplished if she had the tools, resources, and confidence to continue her entrepreneurial journey. That's why I've dedicated my own career toward issues of economic empowerment--especially for women of color like my mom.”

Michelle wanted to start a business like her mom. In middle school she participated in an after-school program on entrepreneurship. “I ended up competing against high school students in a business plan and stock market competition. I won both!”

The prize for the stock market competition was an all-expenses paid trip to New York to see the NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange. During that trip, one of her mentors who was a traditional investment banker told her that he didn't think she was cutthroat enough for the business world.

“I was only in middle school, so I took his words to heart and decided to pursue a path in public service. Over the years, I helped various startups on the side--including two of my brother's companies--but I was always afraid to take the leap and start my own venture.”

Genesis of We Sparkle

Michelle directed her energy toward public service. She completed a master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard University. She worked at the U.S. Department of State, the American Academy of Neurology, and the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Meda). But she was never able to ditch the feeling that she wanted to start a business.

On her journey, she experienced setbacks. Michelle reminded herself to not let others dull her sparkle. She developed a mantra, we sparkle. “It was a reminder to let your light shine, to help others to shine, so that together we shine,” she says.

It was another amazing woman in Michelle’s life, her mother-in-law, who finally made Michelle realize that if didn't take the leap and start her own venture, she would always regret it. “That's why I finally did it and I took the leap.”

In 2018, Michelle applied for and was accepted to the FINNOVATION Lab as a FINNOVATION Fellow. The FINNOVATION Fellowship is a nine-month incubator and fellowship program for purpose-driven entrepreneurs. This led to her startup, We Sparkle.

We Sparkle is a public benefit corporation that leverages technology to help small businesses save time and increase revenues. They are building a stronger and more inclusive economy by equipping underestimated entrepreneurs with tech-enabled business tools. Most of their customers are women of color. We Sparkle’s AI Assistant texts with customers to schedule appointments, answer their questions, educates them on your products/services, and encourages their reviews.

Learn More About Michelle Maryns and We Sparkle:

Michelle Maryns on LinkedIn:

We Sparkle on Facebook:

We Sparkle on Instagram:

We Sparkle on Twitter:

Jun 11, 2020
Build Resilience, with Leticia Gonzalez-Reyes, 109 World

Leticia Gonzalez-Reyes thought she would spend this year building her nonprofit. Instead, she is building her resilience. 

Leticia Gonzalez-Reyes started 2020 with so much hope. “So many of us thought that 2020 was going to be THE year,” she says. She started the new year at a gathering in Vancouver. “I am not a New Year’s resolution person. But at the start of every year, I choose a word for that year. My word for 2020? BUILD.”

Leticia started her nonprofit 109 World five years ago. Like any startup, they have had their struggles. “For 2019, my word was FOCUS. That really helped 109. It felt like, in 2020, I was going to harvest all the fruits that I planted the previous year. In short, I thought the soil, the foundation was finally strong so I could start building my organization the way I always envisioned. That’s why my word for 2020 is ‘build.’”

109 World hosts retreats for people to renew themselves and to join in service projects. “What is self-care without a chance to put that into service in the world? On every 109 experience, we partner with local grassroots organizations. We positively impact communities and environments. Volunteering with them allows us to put our hands in the soil, break bread together, and truly gain perspective of our place in the world. In five years, we have supported over 400 alumni in adopting more sustainable and mindful ways of living.”

Past volunteer opportunities include clean drinking water projects, women and girls’ education, animal welfare, the refugee crisis, food security, and disaster relief. 109 World has partnered with over a dozen local grassroots organizations across 11 countries.

February of this year found Leticia visiting her family in Brazil. It was Carnival time. “Everybody was happy and looking forward to what 2020 had in store for all of us,” she remembers. “Coronavirus was not that big, that scary. It was not yet a global crisis.”

Entering Survival Mode

Then came Friday, March 6. The Coronavirus halted international travel.

“My phone had 22 WhatsApp messages, and seven missed calls. The 22 WhatsApp messages were follow-ups from 22 extremely rude emails in my inbox. People were freaking out that 109 World had not issued a statement about the pandemic. People wanted to know what our community should do.”

Community members had put down deposits. They wanted to know about refunds.

“I entered survival mode. I called my board to come up with an emergency plan.” With the board, Leticia decided to refund all deposits. She then called the hotels and other service providers, whom she had prepaid. Unfortunately, they were not willing to repay her.

Leticia spent the rest of the day on the phone with upset customers, assuring them that they would receive a refund.

Nearing Bankruptcy in Business and Life

“Giving the refunds, and not being able to get refunds ourselves, we only had one month of survival left.”

Leticia felt a sense of overwhelming fear. “I had palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness.” Her sister, who is a doctor, told Leticia, “I think you are having an anxiety attack.”

“I am someone whose work is to help people live a more mindful life. So, stress, anxiety, and business don’t continue to control their lives. And, for them to avoid burnout. Yet, here I am having my first anxiety attack. Honestly, I felt like a complete failure. I felt like I let my community down. I let my business down. And, I let myself down."

Learn More About Leticia Gonzalez-Reyes and 109 World:

Leticia Gonzalez-Reyes on Instagram:

Leticia Gonzalez-Reyes on LinkedIn:

109 World:

109 World on Instagram:

Donate to 109 World:

May 25, 2020
Ethics in the Era of COVID-19, with Rob Chesnut, Chief Ethics Officer, Airbnb

Rob Chesnut is the author of Intentional Integrity: How Smart Companies Can Lead an Ethical Revolution.

As you continue your social isolation journey, what decisions will you make today? Some of us have serious decisions about how to provide for a family during an economic downturn. Others of us are trying to figure out how long we can go between showers. But for most of us, our decisions are not going to impact the lives of 150 million people. That’s the situation that Rob Chesnut found himself in earlier this year.

Rob Chesnut is the Chief Ethics Officer at Airbnb.

As a member of the Airbnb executive team, he and the team were faced with a decision that involved multiple stakeholders:

  • 150 million Airbnb customers.
  • 650,000 Airbnb hosts in 161 countries.
  • More than 100,000 local communities.
  • More than 7,500 employees in 34 cities worldwide.
  • Investors.

How can you possibly make a decision that impacts that many people? The Airbnb leadership team knew that they would have to make tough choices and tradeoffs. They didn’t have a playbook for how to handle a global pandemic. Nobody did. What they did have was a set of core values to guide them. And they had a way of thinking about ethical decisions. Rob Chesnut calls this Intentional Integrity. 

Learn More About Rob Chesnut and Intentional Integrity:

Book: Intentional Integrity: How Smart Companies Can Lead an Ethical Revolution:

Intentional Integrity website:

Rob Chesnut on Twitter:

Rob Chesnut on LinkedIn:

May 13, 2020
An App to Give Help and Get Help During COVID-19 with Bharat Pulgam, Pikup

Pikup is an app that connects neighbors who need something with those who are already going to a store.

We’ve been talking about resilience in the face of adversity. I must admit that I love stories from startups because, by their very nature, they are resilient while undergoing sustained trauma.

One of my favorite movies is Shakespeare in Love. And one of my favorite lines is when the character Philip Henslowe says

“Allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.”

That statement also applies to almost any entrepreneurial endeavor. And, no one would know this better than Bharat Pulgam, CEO of Pikup.

Pikup is an app that lets you ask for help when you need it and give help when you’re willing to help. It connects neighbors who need something with those who are already on their way to and from a store.

It has proven to be wildly popular during the coronavirus pandemic. But that was not always the story. First, Pikup had to overcome insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster. 

Learn More About Pikup:


May 07, 2020
Hospice Nurse Fights for PPE for Frontline Workers

“We have deemed this as a medical war. We are soldiers willing to serve, but we don’t have the armor.” Petergay Dunkley-Mullins

On Thrive. Connect. Contribute, we have been talking about resilience. I cannot imagine anyone who models resilience more than hospice nurses. That is a job that requires a mental toughness that I’m not sure I possess. That is in normal times. And, these are certainly not normal times, are they?

As COVID-19 cases surge medical facilities are strained. Hospice workers find themselves struggling to provide end-of-life services. This situation is exacerbated by the lack of personal protective equipment or PPE.

Petergay Dunkley-Mullins has spent a lifetime overcoming obstacles. She first came to my attention through her book, Can’t Afford to Fail. Petergay is the Director of Operations for a hospice company in Atlanta. When it comes to her patients, she doesn’t mince words. “I am disappointed with the attention hospice patients have gotten in this COVID-19 Crisis. I believe our most vulnerable Americans are being abandoned.

“We do not have sufficient personal protective equipment to care for our patients. We do not have enough gowns. We do not have enough hand sanitizer. We do not have enough N-95 masks. I’m begging every day.”

Petergay explains the unique role of hospice nurses. “We are voices for them. We are their advocates. We are their families. We are the ones who want to sit there by their bedsides, hold their hands, talk to them, and let them know that everything is going to be OK.

“We want to sit there and do a video call and say ‘Look, here’s your granddaughter. Here’s your grandson. Your kids love you so much.’ But we cannot do that because we don’t have the proper equipment.

“We have deemed this as a medical war. We are soldiers willing to serve, but we don’t have the armor.”

On today’s episode, she tells her story, starting as a homeless teenage mother in Jamaica. She lost her son to a viral illness, but she refused to give up on herself.

She met and married an American who promised her a better life. Unfortunately, her new husband was abusive.

She escaped to Florida and connected with her extended family. Starting at age 20, she completed her high school education. She went on to complete nursing school, and eventually became a Registered Nurse.

Throughout her story, Petergay reminds us what it means to be resilient.

Learn More About Petergay Dunkley-Mullings:

Book: Can’t Afford to Fail:

Petergay Dunkley-Mullins website:

May 05, 2020
Resilience Mindset with Super Bowl Champion, Ryan Harris

What does it take to get back up after being knocked down? Ask Ryan Harris, a 10-year veteran of the NFL.

The essence of resilience is getting up after you’ve been knocked down. But what happens you’re your job is literally knocking people down, or being knocked down? And what happens when that lasts for more than ten years?

Ryan Harris is a 10-year veteran of the NFL. Before that, he played football in high school and at the University of Notre Dame. During his football career, he endured nine surgeries, including three back surgeries and a toe replacement. That’s right, the doctors had to rebuild his toe.

In 2015, Ryan was a key member of the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos. He also played for the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers before retiring in 2016.

Ryan captured his secrets in the best-selling book, Mindset for Mastery: An NFL Champion’s Guide to Reaching Your Greatness.

In this interview, Ryan talks about his mantra “I am. I will. I can.” He describes visualizing the prize. And he explains his advice to “Pick up a shovel and dig.”

Learn More About Ryan Harris:

Book: Mindset for Mastery: An NFL Champion’s Guide to Reaching Your Greatness

Ryan Harris Website:

Ryan Harris on Instagram:

Ryan Harris on Twitter:

May 04, 2020
There’s No Such Thing as a Dead End, with Jay Newton-Small of MemoryWell
Apr 26, 2020
Pivot in the Pandemic with Marcus Pope and Matt Norris of Youthprise

Youthprise pivoted their service model during the pandemic. No one could have predicted what happened next.

Not every family has equal access to afterschool and summer programs. These programs often carry a price that is too great for impoverished families. A few years ago, the state of Minnesota came up with a great idea – provide tax credits so low-income families can take part. But there is a catch. The families must first front the cost and wait for the credit to appear on their taxes many months later.

Youthprise and Venn Foundation teamed up to launch Minnesota Afterschool Advance. They help low-income families pay for afterschool and summer programming. They do so by using an innovative financing model. They help families use a state tax credit that can cover 75% of the cost of these activities.

Marcus Pope of Youthprise explains. “For systemic reasons, this tax credit is underutilized. Only about 4% of the potential funding is claimed each year. If every eligible family in Minnesota used the full amount, it would be about $275 million.

In the first 18 months, those same systemic barriers constrained the program’s growth. But, after months of work, the plan was finally showing signs of traction.

According to Matt Norris of Youthprise, “As we entered 2020, we saw a summit of statewide partners as a critical inflection point. That would springboard us into our biggest summer and fall by far.” That is until all activities ground to a halt because of COVID-19. “The order to self-isolate came just days before the summit,” Matt explains.

The prospect of afterschool programs being shuttered weighed heavily on Marcus and Matt. “It was frustrating," Matt says. We were of thwarted by something completely out of our control. This happened just as the program was starting to build real momentum. It was intense. But we focused on the opportunities to advance our mission and build momentum.”

The Minnesota Afterschool Advance program focused on access to afterschool programs. The same tax credit can also be used for up to $200 of computer hardware per family per year. Marcus adds, “The entire state prepared to shift to distance learning over just two weeks. We saw an opportunity to help low-income families prepare for the transition. We scoured the internet and found Chromebooks for under $200. We quickly threw together a flyer and started sharing it with our network.”

Marcus remembers the moment well. “I can tell you almost to the minute when the first school district sent the flyer out to every one of their families. In the blink of an eye, the applications started pouring in, and my phone and inbox lit up. In the next 48 hours, our program received more applications than it did in all 2019!”

More schools started sharing the flyer district-wide. Local influencers posted about it on their social media. The next week became a mad scramble to marshal the product, dollars, and people to deliver for families. “The deluge hasn’t stopped since,” Matt says. “At one point, demand became so overwhelming we had to shut down our application and start a waiting list while we shored up our supply of devices. We tried to refine a process that was strained by the unprecedented volume. We’re now working through a waiting list of over 150 families with more added every single day.”

In just one week, with one pivot, they responded to an immediate need. Youthprise shifted from a program grieving a loss to one meeting the demand for its services. 

Learn More About Youthprise:


Minnesota Afterschool Advance:

Venn Foundation:

Apr 19, 2020
Crowdsource Kindness During the COVID-19 Crisis with Morgan Schmidt

According to Morgan Schmidt, the world is full of kind people. She found a way to crowdsource kindness.

When the pandemic is over, you might want to go out dancing. If you dance to West-Coast Swing music in Bend, OR, look for the enthusiastic woman wearing horn-rimmed glasses. You’ll want to get to know her. But be warned. If it’s Saturday night, she might leave early. She leads worship on Sunday morning.

If you’re lucky enough to meet Morgan Schmidt on the dance floor, know that she is changing the world in her own small way. She found a way to crowdsource kindness during the coronavirus pandemic.

Doing More Than Broadcasting Church Services

Morgan Schmidt is the Associate Pastor for Teens & 20-Somethings at First Presbyterian Church in Bend, OR. On March 12, the church staff met to discuss how they would continue in the face of the pandemic. First, they decided to move services online.

“Church isn’t just about Sunday morning worship,” Morgan says. “For us, it’s about connecting and caring for the community. We were brainstorming, what could that look like. My colleague, Becca, brought up this idea that families should identify a pandemic buddy family. So, there’d be two families who could help each other out.”

Morgan latched onto the idea. “Pandemic partners! That’s a great idea. We should just start a Facebook group. People can ask for help, and they can offer to help.” So, the group Pandemic Partners was born.

Morgan admits that, before March 12, she didn’t know much about Facebook Groups. She mostly used Facebook to share pictures of her three-legged golden retriever, Buddy. “The crazy thing is, I invited people that I know. A couple of friends did the same thing. We grew to about 3,000 members in twelve hours.

“There was no strategy or promotional marketing. We hit at a time when emotions were starting to run high. People were looking for something, for anything to ground them.”

Most of the people who signed up first offered to give help. “I think that’s natural in the midst of something that makes us feel powerless,” Morgan explains. One of the first requests on the site was from a mom who had an immunocompromised child. She simply asked for local honey and lemons. “We watched that request get fulfilled in the blink of an eye. It was moments like that, that told me this was going to be something special.”

The group in Bend exploded. There are almost 12,000 members, about 10% of the population. Then, nearby communities reached out. They wanted to set up a Pandemic Partners group. Morgan quickly set-up a website and a Google Drive folder with documents and videos. She has personally coached more than 20 local groups, including a group in Australia. 

Learn More About Morgan Schmidt and Pandemic Partners:

Apr 14, 2020
Create a Life You’re Proud to Live with Petra Velzeboer

Petra Velzeboer considered taking her life. But then, she engaged in a one-year personal experiment that led to a life she is proud to live.

Petra Velzeboer was raised in the Children of God cult. By the time she left, she was an adult with no formal education.

As she entered life outside the cult, her life was complicated. She was a mom, stuck at home with two children, unable to work. She learned to avoid, distract, and numb herself with alcohol.

Then she hit rock bottom.

She awoke one morning. Petra wanted to end her life. “I thought if I just disappeared then all the pain would disappear too,” she says. But then, she made a choice. “I put off ending my life for one year. I decided to spend that year observing, researching, and imitating what seemed to be working for others.”

She didn’t know where to start. “I had 2 young children, barely any education and a childhood that did not prepare me for life in the real world.” Her first step was admitting to herself and the people around her that she needed help.

She gave up alcohol. That was a good step toward regaining control of her life. Unfortunately, it also left her feeling raw. She struggled to deal with her pain.

Over the next year, one day at a time, one decision at a time, she built her resilience. “I experienced moments of happiness and true connection,” she says, “which helped me want to live.” At the end of her one-year experiment, she no longer wanted to end her life.

“Since then I have worked with people from all over the globe. I help them to empower themselves and others to improve their mental health.”

Her podcast, Adversity to Advantage, explores stories from people who have succeeded in the face of adversity. She just published her 130th episode.

Today, she is a Mental Health consultant, psychotherapist, and coach. She works with individuals and businesses looking to improve their mental health to sustain success.

In this episode of Thrive. Connect. Contribute, we discuss:

  • The role of hope in building resilience.
  • The importance of empathy and human connect.
  • Growth Mindset.
  • The importance of acceptance.
  • Finding meaning in every situation.
  • And the importance of right-sizing problems.

Learn More About Petra Velzeboer:

Apr 13, 2020
A 72-Hour Sprint to Help Parents and Children, with Jacob and Alana Blumenstein of KidsRead2Kids

When Jacob and Alana Blumenstein were stuck at home during the pandemic, they used their time to help others.

There is an old saying: If you want to be happy, help someone else. Studies have shown that there are psychological and physiological benefits of helping others. Whey you focus on the needs of others, you build resilience. That’s what Jacob and Alana Blumenstein of KidsRead2Kids did. For one 72-hour sprint, they created lesson plans for parents and kids stuck at home during the pandemic.

Jacob is a high school senior. He should be planning for senior prom and graduation.

Alana is a Creative Writing major at Oberlin College. In March, she focused on homework and upcoming exams.

Then the world changed.

Alana and her mother received an email from Oberlin College. They had two days to move Alana from the campus. Jacob and their mother went into action. They drove straight to Oberlin to pick up Alana.

On the long drive home from college, Jacob and Alana chose not to focus on themselves, but how they can help others.

Alana and Jacob took an inventory of the tools available to them. They are co-founders of KidsRead2Kids. “We are kids who read aloud abridged versions of great classic novels to instill a love of reading and learning.”

They thought about their customers, kids and parents stuck at home trying to learn during this difficult time. They settled on the idea of creating a lesson plan, starting with the book Peter Pan. The lesson plans contain critical thinking questions, chapter recap quizzes, and puzzles. “Our goal is to help you continue to learn during these tough times.”

In a wild 72-hour sprint, they listened to the book Peter Pan. They created vocabulary builders, listening comprehension questions, and creative writing prompts.

The Story of KidsRead2Kids

This wasn’t the first setback that the Blumenstein family had faced. Jacob has dyslexia. He didn’t learn to read until the fourth grade. “I remember, when the teacher asked me to read in the third grade,” Jacob says, “I raised my hand and asked to go to the bathroom.”

He didn’t find the support he needed in his school. “My teaches called me stupid and lazy,” he admits. “As one does, I listened to my teachers. My self-confidence dropped.”

In the fifth grade, Jacob was diagnosed with dyslexia. He moved to a new school with specialized resources. “I was introduced to assistive technology,” Jacob says. “I was given a lot of encouragement and support. I worked hard. By ninth grade, I was getting straight A’s in school.”

His sister Alana admits that it was difficult to watch her brother struggle. And yet, his transformation inspired her. “We realized that Jacob is not alone in his struggles. There are so many other kids just like him.”

“I was fortunate that I had support systems,” Jacob says. “When I didn’t believe in myself, I had parents that believed in me.”

So, at the ages of fifteen and seventeen, Jacob and Alana, along with their brother Reuben launched the nonprofit, KidsRead2Kids. They provide video-audio books, read chapter-by-chapter to help struggling kids learn to read. Studies show that listening to books is the most important activity to build skills for reading success. KidsRead2Kids uses real kids and real voices.

Alan explains, “We focused on two areas. First, we wanted to raise awareness of learning differences. We wanted to bring the joy back to learning. We also wanted to focus on their self-esteem. So many people who are struggling feel that they are alone.”

KidsRead2Kids on YouTube:

Apr 12, 2020
A Community Rallies for Hungry Kids with Bella Lam of Coconut Whisk

To help with meals during the COVID-19 crisis, Bella Lam and her company, Coconut Whisk shared free pancake and waffle mix. Her community came alongside her to help.

Bella Lam is the Founder and CEO of Coconut Whisk, a vegan and gluten-free baking mix company. With every sale, Coconut Whisk donates a vegan meal to a kid in need.

In March of 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic struck. Children were sent home from school. Bella grew up depending on school meals. She realized that many school children would go without. She and her staff decided to donate a waffle and pancake mix to families in need. When word got out, members of their online community stepped up to give. As a result, fifty families received the help that was desperately needed.

One mother wrote:

"Thank you so much for sharing your amazing waffle mix and stepping forward to help people like me. I am a single mom of five who is already struggling to find things on store shelves. I truly appreciate it with all of my heart. The kiddos loved them too!"

The Story of Coconut Whisk

In the Spring of 2018, Bella was a senior at Mankato State University. She had been vegan and gluten-free for two years. She was excited to be invited to a family member’s wedding. “This person teased me about being vegan,” she told me. “When I found out his wedding reception was not vegan-friendly, it really hurt. I couldn't even eat the dessert. It was humiliating and frustrating.”

Also, as an avid baker, Bella struggled with finding baking kits that fit her dietary choices. “It sparked a fire in me,” she says. “I wanted to show people that living vegan is healthier, better-for-you, and easy! I wanted it to be normalized and accessible. I didn't want anyone else to feel the type of disappointment that I did.”

With that mission, Bella decided to start a vegan and gluten-free baking mix company that also gives back. “I wanted our brand to be as approachable and welcoming as possible, no matter who you are.”

She entered a campus business pitch competition. They ended up winning the Food Division.

“From that moment on, we've seen tremendous growth and support. We are in over 20 retail stores. We're donated over 500 meals. We have a thriving online presence and a loyal customer base. Launching Coconut Whisk has been my greatest adventure. We're excited to keep growing and to become a household name!”

Lessons Learned

Bella says, “The lesson I want others to learn from my story is to take heart-centered action. I didn't start a company to prove anyone wrong. I started it because I felt that there was a need, and I wanted to provide a solution. It's so important to make sure that your ‘why’ is clear. I didn't have the business background, but I was passionate about proving a solution. That was my north star. I focused my energy on doing good and being the best person that I could me. I challenged myself, and I acted. When you take the first step, everything else starts to fall in place.”

Learn More About Bella Lam and Coconut Whisk:

Apr 11, 2020
Zaheen Nanji, Resilience Champion

How do you talk about a health crisis when you teach wellness and resilience to others?

Zaheen Nanji was born in Kenya. She was a bright child, and so, at the age of seven, she skipped a grade. Soon after that, she developed a profound stutter. This speech disorder and the resulting social isolation was exasperated when she moved to Edmonton, Alberta, at the age of 15. In college, she found the help that she needed to overcome her speech disorder. Through this experience, she became a champion of resilience.

In early 2010, Zaheen and her husband opened Shanti Wellness Centre in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. There, she was able to use her expertise in Nutrition & Food Science, Environmental Health, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. She began to deliver keynote speeches about wellness and resilience.

But, in 2016, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This diagnosis challenged everything she knew about being resilient. She struggled with self-pity and self-doubt. As she kept her diagnosis a secret, the secrecy took its toll on her mental health.

Finally, she turned to Facebook Live to tell her story to the world. Here she was, a champion of resilience and health, and she was struggling to make it from day-to-day. Her transparency resonated with her Facebook followers. They began to confess their own insecurities ad share her video widely.

Today, Zaheen is a TEDx speaker, famous for her talk on resilience. She was on the front cover of Positive Health Magazine. She has also been featured in broadcast media outlets in the UK, the US, and Canada. She is the author of several books, including Resilience Reflex: 8 Keys to Transforming Barriers into Success in Life and Business, and Resilience During Your Breast Cancer Journey: How to Thrive After Your Diagnosis and Treatment.

Learn More About Zaheen Nanji:

Apr 05, 2020
Bracha Goetz, Author of 38 Children’s Books

Bracha Goetz was pursuing positions of power and privilege, when she says she met God at a garden party.

Bracha Goetz is the Harvard-educated author of 38 books that help children's souls shine. She is also the author of the candid memoir for adults about overcoming food addictions joyfully, Searching for God in the Garbage.

In 1977, Bracha was an undergrad at Harvard University. “I looked like a rising success story,” she told me. She had always wanted to rub elbows with the elite families of the world.

Finally, she received an invitation to an exclusive garden party. At first, she was dazzled, but after only a few minutes, she asked herself this one question. “Is this it?” She noted that, after climbing to her perceived pinnacle of success, there was no there, there.

When a sudden rainstorm blew through the party, Bracha was elated. “I skipped through the rain to my dorm room,” she says. “I learned that there was really nothing much up there on the highest peak that I had been striving to reach.”

That day was a turning point in in Bracha’s journey. That summer, she took what was supposed to be a short trip to Israel. There, she met a spiritual teacher, was introduced to her husband, and had children.

As her children played, Bracha sat in her garden and wrote out her first children’s book. She mailed the loose-leaf notebook paper to a publisher, who accepted it immediately. Since then, she has written 38 books for children.

Learn More About Bracha Goetz:

Apr 04, 2020
These Two Children Show Us How to Connect with Others in a Time of Crisis

Audio Applesauce is a podcast for kids who want to have fun and learn cool things.

James, age 10, and Ella who is almost 8 years old, were at the end their spring break from school. They were looking forward to going back to school and reconnecting with their friends. But then, the coronavirus struck. School was closed for at least the next two weeks, probably longer.

James and Ella’s mom is Jackie Biederman. She is the cofounder of StoryPop Media where she helps companies to connect with customers and team through original podcasts. She told me “We were wondering what we could do to keep learning and having fun. We also wondered how we might help other kids.”

A couple of weeks earlier, James had setup a mini recording studio in a closet. The kids had been excited for quite some time to have a podcast, so their mom thought it might be fun to create one together.

James and Ella loved the idea of creating a show, creating something for their friends and family to hear.

Jackie says, “First we brainstormed names and then came up with some fun segments. Next, we thought of who we knew that could share something cool and educational at the same time.”

Since Audio Applesauce launched, the kids have been excited to hear their work. They have been receiving comments from loving family and friends about the impact they're making.

When I asked Stella what she had learned from the experience, she responded, “When some people are in a hard moment, it's good to help others and give them something from you.”

I asked James what people should be thinking about right now, especially in the face of COVID-19. He responded, “Stay calm and have hope that someday the coronavirus will go away.”

Great advice, indeed.

Learn More About Audio Applesauce:

Mar 27, 2020
How I Overcame Anxiety, Found the Purpose of Life, and Lived a Year of Personal Bests

In December 2018, I told a friend, "I don't want to be alive." I didn't want to harm myself. I just didn't get the point. After years as a corporate executive and after launching a startup company, I just didn't understand the point of it all.

That confession sent me on a journey to discover what it means to live a "Year of Personal Bests."

·      What would life look like if I was thriving?

  • How would I know if I was thriving?
  • What would I measure?
  • How would I measure it?
  • What action would I take?

I spent a year finding the answers to those questions. I’m ready to share the results of “My Year of Personal Bests.”

You can read more here:

Mar 25, 2020
The Simplest Way to Tell a Story

Sometimes, even the most gifted storytellers get stuck. If you have a story to tell, here’s a way to quickly get started. Structure your story using the SOAR method.

Set the Scene: Tell us where you are, who you’re with, and your situation.

Obstacle: What are you up against? What’s your goal? Every story begins with a world out of balance.

Action: What did you do about the obstacle? If there is a problem, you take steps to solve the problem.

Results: What was the outcome? Maybe you succeeded and reached your goal. Or perhaps you failed utterly. Or maybe you overcame that obstacle only to be confronted by the next hurdle.

An Example of a Story Using SOAR

A friend of mine recently told me a story. She might not have known it, but she was using SOAR.

Set the Scene

Because of the COVID-19 virus, school is canceled. It feels a little scary and uncertain. Our house is a little too small for the whole family under the best of circumstances. My oldest daughter, Jane, is in a dark mood. She’s old enough to understand just how bad this can all be. And yet, she’s stuck in the house, away from her friends.

Henry and I are working from home. The only real workspace is our tiny kitchen table. Jane is sitting with us, trying to keep up with homework and her friends. There’s just not enough room, and things are getting tense.


Jane looks up from her laptop. “Holy crap.”

“What?” Henry and I ask at the same time.

“It’s Bill’s 90th birthday.”

Bill is the neighbor that everyone looks to for help. If your sink is dripping, or you need someone to water your plants while you’re on vacation, Bill is the first to step up. The entire neighborhood loves him. Because he is right next door to us, my family is very close to him. But Jane is closest to him of all. He is her surrogate grandfather, confidant, and provider of small hard candies. He used to give her two pieces of candy and tell her, “One for now and one for later.”

With the COVID-19 virus going around, we’re not going to host a party. And, just visiting with Bill at this point feels like it’s putting his life at risk.


Jane comes up with an idea. What if we each write a birthday card and tape it to his window so that he can read it from inside? We scramble around the house, looking for birthday cards. Nothing.

We take our laptops off the kitchen table and break out the construction paper and crayons. We each write heartfelt messages on brightly colored construction paper. When we finish, we show each other our handiwork. On Jane’s birthday card, there’s a brightly colored piece of candy taped to the corner. Beside it, she wrote a note. “One for later.”

We find the tape and march over to Bill’s kitchen window, the one that looks toward our house. Jane taps on the window, and after a minute, Bill comes to the window and looks out. We all sing happy birthday, then one by one, we tape our birthday greetings to the window. Jane is last. Bill sees the piece of candy and loses it. We all lose it.

We make our way home with hugs.


As we reach the side door to our house, my cell phone rang. I thought it was going to be Bill. Instead, it was the neighbor across the street, Ramona. She asked me what we were doing, and I told her. I look at Jan and add, “It was Jane’s idea.”

Ramona walked over to Bill’s house and took a picture. About five minutes later, I see that Ramona has posted the photo on Facebook and tagged Jane. Then, one family at a time, our neighbors walked over to Bill’s house and put up their cards. Pretty soon, the house is festooned with colorful paper on the windows.

More neighbors tagged Jane on social media and thanked her for such a bright idea. Today, the world feels friendlier, and we don’t feel so alone.

Do You Have a Story to Tell?

Share your story here:

Mar 22, 2020
What I Did During the COVID-19 Crisis

We're telling positive stories of people who thrive in life, connect with others, and contribute to the world in the face of adversity.

Who do you know who is modeling resilience during difficult times?

Have you heard any good stories lately? In this critical time, we’re surrounded by acts of heroism, both large and small.

For example, I heard a story today about an employee at Buzzfeed who gathered the houseplants from the cubicles of her coworkers and placed them in one area. That way she can come in during the shutdown and water the plants, so that the plants will be waiting for her coworkers when they return to work.

I heard another one about a small distillery in Pennsylvania that had retooled so that, instead of making whiskey, they’re making hand sanitizer.

Or the podcasting mom who launched a podcast with her children while they are out of school. 

What I'm Doing During the COVID-19 Crisis

I’m looking for these stories. I’ll bet you have heard stories like this. And, I’ll also bet that you have stories from your life. 

I am launching a new podcast called Thrive. Connect. Contribute. My hope is that we can share five to ten-minute stories of people who are finding ways to thrive in life, connect with others, and make a contribution to the world in the face of adversity.

These are episodic – short five- to ten-minute stories. Think of this like The Moth or StoryCorps.

I feel compelled to do this. The idea came to me yesterday, and I’m knocking this up as quickly as I can.

I am recording the pilot episode now, but it will be a few days before the first episode is in your favorite podcast app.

I am calling for stories. Here’s how it works.

You can nominate a story that you heard from someone else, or you can tell your own story.

Why "Thrive. Connect. Contribute."?

Last year I did a personal experiment called “My Year of Personal Bests.” (That’s another blog post.) If I boiled the entire year-long experience into one phrase, it would be this: 

You are here on earth to connect with others and contribute to the world. But before you can connect and contribute, you must first practice self-care. In other words, you must thrive. Thrive. Connect. Contribute. In that order. 

So, the mission of the Thrive. Connect. Contribute. podcast is “We tell positive stories of people who, thrive in life, connect with others, and contribute to the world.”

Take Control of Your Destiny

So, help me out, will you? Let’s find and tell the stories of people who are thriving, connecting, and contributing in the face of adversity.

Nominate someone to tell their story. Or, let us know about the story you have to tell.

We need these stories now more than ever. 

Mar 21, 2020